THEATER REVIEW: “Good People”, a comedy about bad people
David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Broadway play, “Good People,” is on view at the Theater Barn until September 19. Photo: Allen Phelps
The Theater Barn, New Lebanon, New York
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Phil Rice
“You can take Southie’s girl out, but…”
When was the last time you heard a comedy called “raw and raw”? This one certainly is. David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Broadway play, “Good People,” won two Tony Awards – Best Play and Best Actress for Frances McDormand – and is now on stage at New Lebanon’s Theater Barn. Its main actor is Kathleen Carey, an actress who has given many defining performances in the past, and this time, gives a “helluva” to the role of Margie Walsh. The actress plays the chimerical moods of this woman, the varying truths and lies that sometimes cannot be authenticated or corrected. Margie is desperate. She lives with her adult daughter whose undefined illnesses almost destroy Margie. The woman cannot keep a job; she lives with debt and anxiety. Her good friends, Dottie and Jean, support her through difficult times. Bingo supports its emotional peaks. It is a comedy, defined as a play in which no one dies and no one dies. It can be said for that.
Desperate for work, she contacts a former boyfriend, Mike Dolan, now a successful doctor, and almost blackmails him into inviting her to a party at his home in a much more fashionable Boston neighborhood. Her motives seem simple, but this devious woman is a manipulator who has a tendency to screw everything up. This is what she does. It’s a comic situation that turns into active melodrama in his not-so-easy hands.
Mike and his wife Kate do what they can to make it happen, but Margie inevitably messes things up again. Lindsay-Abaire is brilliant at taking a Marx Brothers comedy moment and turning it into an agony of reality. This piece is a wonder of good possibilities gone awry and each incident seems to make things worse instead of better. There is comedy in there, but she works her way through the tears.
Dottie, the likeable owner of Margie, is played by Lisa Franklin, who is very good at playing both sides of an intention at the same time. As Jean, Angela Portrikas is a much appreciated force for good. Margie’s former employer and bingo buddy Steve is played by a kind / aggressive Joseph Sicotte. Caller Bingo is voiced by Sam Slack. Slack also designed the five sets for this show and Sicotte contributed both lighting and sound design. Both men greatly helped the show.
Kate is played by Kim Wafer, whose line readings were good, but whose voice was so calm she could barely be heard. As her husband Mike, Christopher Brophy puts on a wonderful performance. A man slandered by two women at the same time, although for very different reasons, Brophy manages to keep the two women separate but equal in strength. He gets along very well with both and, under the perfect direction of Phil Rice, manages to support the comedy while experiencing the tragedy of his life. Brophy is powerful in this part. He’s attractive and makes an ugly thing of him.
Not everyone will enjoy this disturbing little comedy, but after all, no one dies and the characters and story are different, fun, a little scary, and a perfect description of the Southie experience.
“Good People,” a play about bad people, is set at the Theater Barn on Route 20, just west of New Lebanon City, New York, through September 19. For information and tickets, call 518-7948989 or visit The Theater Barn website.